WASHINGTON — Ever since she won election to the U.S. House from South Carolina last November, Nancy Mace was seen as a bright new star in the Republican Party, a potential leader of the new crop of freshman GOP women. But like many of her colleagues, Mace — once a loyal supporter of President Trump — was shaken to her core by the events at the Capitol on Wednesday. Just three days after being sworn in, Mace found herself barricaded in her office while rioters rampaged through congressional buildings, smashing windows and breaking down doors. “It made me angry,” Mace said in an interview on the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast. “I was pissed off last night. I am more pissed off today than I was yesterday.” But most of all, she says, she’s worried about her kids — and that they will now be concerned that every time she goes to Washington, “that mommy’s life is in danger.”
What follows is an edited transcript of Mace’s Skullduggery interview with Yahoo News Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff and Yahoo News Editor in Chief Daniel Kiaidman.
Skullduggery: Tell us what it was like for you, where you were, and what your reaction is to what you witnessed.
Rep. Nancy Mace: I’m devastated right now. In fact, this morning I woke up in tears. … I’m a single working mom. I flew my two kids, who are in middle school, up here to witness the historic swearing in. It was very exciting. It’s such a huge honor to be up here and to have this opportunity being given to me in this election cycle. And then by the end of the weekend, we were up here, I was seeing some of the rhetoric online, seeing some of the messages that were being sent to me personally and via my campaign and official channels. And I said, “Time out. This doesn’t feel right. This feels very uncomfortable. I don’t like the way this feels. … People were getting very riled up, and I decided on Sunday night to put my children on the first flight home on Monday morning. … It was going to be a great opportunity for them to roam the halls of Congress, to witness history and do school at the same time. What a great civics lesson. But Monday morning, I said, “I love you, but you got to go home because I’m worried about your safety.” And my motherly instincts were right. My greatest fears came true.
I’m just heartbroken by it all. I’m shocked, and I’m angry. I think I’m angrier today than I was yesterday. But when I saw those images and those videos this morning, it literally brought me to my knees. It brought me to tears.
Where were you when the Capitol building was breached?
At one point we were stuck in a tunnel under the Capitol with several other members of Congress and maybe 100 staffers who were evacuated from Cannon [House Office Building]. We were in this tunnel and then when we were able to get back to our offices. That's when the breach happened. We were put immediately into lockdown. We had to lock our office doors, turn off the lights, [and be] quiet. We weren’t speaking. You could just hear the sirens all across the Capitol, and it was scary. I was worried about my staff. I wanted to make sure every person was accounted for and that we were all in a safe place.
Congresswoman, you say you are angry. Who are you angry at?
From the top down. The rhetoric that has been used leading up to this, misleading millions of Americans. We’ve seen rhetoric on the far right that has enabled and incited this kind of behavior. The kind of things I have heard constituents say to me, people who live in my district and outside of the district and across the country — it’s totally unacceptable, and it has led to this moment. And I really think that misleading and lying to the American people over these last few weeks. … I wasn’t going to participate in such shenanigans. I wasn’t going to fleece the American people, I wasn’t going to mislead them or take advantage of their hearts or their minds or their wallets on the voter fraud issues.
It's distressing to know that millions of people across the country were misled to believe that the vice president of the United States could single handedly overturn the results of the election, and thank God that Vice President Mike Pence put an end to that.
You said were shocked by what happened yesterday. But at the same time, we know that this kind of rhetoric can lead to violence. When you were on the campaign trail, were these ideas and this kind of rhetoric and anger bubbling up?
Really for me, that sort of thing really happened after the November election. Because of COVID-19, I really didn’t see as much of it because we weren’t campaigning in person as much.
But when Nov. 3 happened, things changed. And I think, you know, as Republicans, we believe we are the party of law and order. We don’t burn cities down. We’ve been watching the far left, and both parties have extremists. We’ve been watching our cities burn for the last six to nine months. And I’ve always believed that that's not simply who we are. But the rhetoric of the last four to eight weeks leading up to this moment, the things that were said, the expectations that were made, the lies that were stated, led to this moment, and we need to hold ourselves accountable for that.
And that’s why I came out very strongly very early on yesterday. I asked the president to get off Twitter and get on television to calm the American people down, to take a step back, take a deep breath and say that this is wrong. We need to take responsibility for it. We need to rebuild our country and we need to rebuild the Republican Party after last night.
I take it you weren’t satisfied. He didn’t go on television, but he issued a video on Twitter in which he praised the perpetrators of this violence while also rather weakly telling them to go home. What was your reaction to the president's statement?
First and foremost, the priority should be to ask people to follow the rule of law and to peacefully return home. That was the only message that I believe the American people needed to hear last night and today. I was also equally disappointed that some politicians wanted to continue to advocate for objecting to the Electoral College last night after this violence, where four people died last night, one of them in the halls of the Capitol, right around the corner from the doors where we enter the chambers to the Capitol to do the business of the people. It was distressing, it was disappointing, and it made me angry.
Many of your colleagues, certainly Democrats, are today calling for impeachment, or for invoking the 25th Amendment. One of your Republican colleagues, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, is also calling for the president’s removal from office. What are your thoughts?
I am approximately 100 hours into my term in Congress. I’m working on about two hours of sleep. I don't know what folks are going to do. I think we’ve got to be very careful with special regards to the 25th Amendment because my understanding, and I haven't read it line for line, but when I make a decision or take a position, I’m going to read the facts presented and I’m going to read the Constitution and make a decision from there.
Kinzinger in his statement said, “The president has become unmoored, not just from his duties, but from reality itself.” And then he says, “The president is unfit and unwell.”
I haven’t ever made a statement on someone’s mental health and I’m not going to start doing that today. I do believe that the rhetoric that has come out of the president and out of far-right fringe members of our party is vehemently wrong. I want to see that wrong righted. I want to hear folks admit that this is our responsibility, that we enabled this, that we need to take responsibility for it.
What did you say to your kids about what happened yesterday?
That mommy’s safe. We FaceTimed. We texted about every hour yesterday. I’m going to wait until I get home with their father. I’m a single mom and we’re going to have that conversation with them face to face. I don’t want them to be afraid that every time that mommy goes to D.C., that mommy’s life is in danger.
But the threats are real. Someone threatened to shoot me on social media recently. I was accosted on a street in D.C. on Tuesday night, where someone who drove up from my home state of South Carolina and disagreed with me on my vote to certify the Electoral College. … And so, it doesn’t really matter what you say to some of these folks. They’re going to attack you anyway, and even though I dug my heels in, I came out strong, and I believed, more so last night than I did the day before about the position I was taking, I woke up this morning with folks continuing to attack me for my position. And I’m not going to relent. This is the right place to be and I’m going to do the right thing for my kids and my country.
You were a big supporter of the president. You worked for his campaign. Do you feel betrayed?
I will tell you personally it’s been very difficult for me to reconcile over the last eight weeks. … And it was really, really disheartening to see what was going on, seeing voters’ hearts, minds and wallets taken advantage of, seeing over half a billion dollars raised to fight voter fraud and yet only a very small percentage, pennies on the dollar of that money, actually being used to investigate or fight voter fraud. I'm not going to be party to that. But it’s been very difficult for me to watch. … I’m pissed off and I’m angry. We did this to ourselves. This is one of the reasons, one of the many reasons that we lost the Georgia Senate.
We cannot continue to try to fleece the American people. We need to be honest with them even when we don’t like the outcome.
What happened when that person accosted you on the street.
I actually was going to get a bite to eat. I hadn’t eaten all day. I was going to go get supper, and this person came up to me and touched me and got in my face. … I’ve tried to explain to people the Constitution and why I took a position that I was going to certify the election and not object to the Electoral College. But what I’ve learned in the last seven days is it doesn't matter what I said. … As I walked away, they were yelling expletives at me.
You were one of the many new Republican women elected to Congress this November. Can you give us a little bit of your biography, because I think it’s a really interesting one and a lot of our listeners would love to hear it.
It’s a story of second chances and ups and downs. I’ve failed as much as I have succeeded. I dropped out of school at the age of 17. My first job was as a waitress at a Waffle House on the side of the interstate. I would eventually get my life together and go on to become the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. I’ve come a long way in a long time. I’ve learned a lot about the value of hard work, and I think that the Citadel, that experience that I went through really helped me ensure that I could be a strong voice regardless of the arrows or darts that are thrown at me, that I can take a position and stay there out of principle, and not be worried about the outcome in the future.
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